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Movie Review: Johnny English Reborn (2011)
Summary: Johnny English goes up against international assassins hunting down the Chinese premier.
Spoilers: none

We see British intelligence as the butt of jokes again with Rowan Atkinson, who is back as Johnny English in the James Bond-spoofer, Johnny English Reborn, the second of the Johnny English films.

With X-Files’ Gillian Anderson as “Pamela,” English’s boss, our star re-emerges after five years of blaming himself for an unnecessary death after thoroughly embarrassing the secret service in an operation at Mozambique. English has
been in a monastery ever since training with the masters, but is called back into action to stop an assassination plot with a trail leading back to the agency.

With English’s most recent screw-ups, he is escorted by “Agent Tucker” (Daniel Kaluuya). When the mystery deepens and a rogue agent is suspected, English confides in “Kate” (Rosamund Pike), the psychologist for the secret service. As stakes of the game rise, few can be trusted—even fewer when killer cleaning ladies are running around.

As with the Bean comedies, the series is slapstick-slanted and has its highs and lows when moving from cartoonish silliness to a story that culminates in a mystery (but certainly not one we take seriously).

The acting is never a problem. But as before, most of the slapstick gags are accompanied by light and heavy elements of secret agent parody, and much of the script is so painfully predictable that it could qualify as a chronic medical condition, though this doesn’t always stop it from being laugh-out-loud funny when it dares to try something new (which is rare).

This comedy pokes fun at everything from spy gadgets to tasteful villains and their beautiful, well-trained ladies of espionage. The commitment to make you laugh is spread throughout the film so that it does, occasionally, deliver on the promise to bring the bigger laughs.

Its likeness to such films as Austin Powers (1997) and The Naked Gun (1988) (which it borrows from), together with its star’s history as “Mr. bean,” give this one a fighting chance at funny, especially when its been so long since we’ve seen Atkinson in any role, much less a reprisal of his character from the first movie.

Gillian Andersen, Rowan Atkinson

In a number of ways, this film is an improvement over the first Johnny English. If you liked it or anything Mr. Bean, chances are you’ll dig Johnny English Reborn--and perhaps want to bear with it even when it resorts to cheesy antics for the cheaper laughs.


Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: PG (for mild action violence, rude humor, some language, and brief sensuality)
Director: Oliver Parker
Starring: “Johnny English” (Rowan Atkinson), “Kate” (Rosamund Pike), “Ambrose” (Dominic West), “Pamela” (Gillian Andersen)
Genre: Comedy / Thriller / Adventure